It was a hot and humid summer morning. The kind of morning that made your shirt feel more like contact paper. We had tracked him to a small apartment building in the middle of the city. It was early, the twilight time for gangstas, addicts and killers. Real people were just waking up. But those who lived in the alternate universe, this neighborhood, were just ending their day. You could walk through this area of the city at noon and find almost no one around. But come back at three in the morning and it was a bustling metropolis. Hos, addicts, dealers even small kids were all out and about. The polar opposite of the rest of society.
The building sat on the corner of two nondescript blocks. It was both run down and average for the area. A small window fan hummed from a ground floor apartment. The edges between the fan and the window were stuffed with newspaper that made it look like a giant hamster lived in there. In front of the building there was a dead rat stuck in a glue trap next to a used open diaper.
"Watch where you walk" I said to Rob almost as an after thought. Rob in his usual upbeat early morning persona griped, "I hate this funkin' neighborhood." Detective Rob Johnson had been my partner for several years. We didn't always agree on how to run a case but we had a lot in common and enjoyed working with each other.
I knocked on the door of the house. No answer. I knocked again. I went back to my car and got the large metal department issued flashlight. I banged so hard on the top corner of the door that it left a tight group of half moon craters.
From the third floor someone yelled, "Who IS it?" "THE POH-LISE" Rob shouted. "Open the fuckin' door". Rob used the "F" word like it was his favorite one. It was second nature to him and it rolled off his tongue so naturally that no one ever took offense to it unless he meant it that way.
An older black guy in his boxer shorts and stained 'beater' tee shirt opened the door. "Yeah?" I told him, "We're looking for Ali". "Who?" "Ali." I showed him a mug shot photo. "I ain't never seen him.", the guy replied. Rob asked "Who lives here with you?" "Nobody". The guy seemed impatient. "You fuckin' live here all by yourself?", Rob asked with his attitude. The guy said, "No, this is apartments. A bunch of folks lives here". The old guy's belly made him look like he was eight months pregnant with triplets. "Mind if we come in?" I asked. "Suit yourself" he said as he stepped back to let us in.
It had to be another fifteen degrees hotter inside the house. As it turned out the house was actually an apartment building. "Typical East Bawlmer condo", Rob said. "Probably some rich fuck from Chevy Chase owns the fuckin' place and collects a bizillion dollars a month for this rat hole."
Each floor had two "apartments" and there was one bathroom on two of the floors that they shared. A TV played loudly from the first floor apartment where the window fan was. We knocked on the door repeatedly but got no answer. That pissed Rob off. But we were not sure if Ali actually lived here. We had a warrant for his arrest for attempted murder but he no longer lived at the address on the warrant. We tried to scoop him up in the middle of the night but he wasn't where we heard he was going to be. One thing led to another and we wound up in this place. Rob knew we couldn't be too loud because we didn't want to let Ali know we were here if he actually was staying here.
We knocked on a few doors and showed Ali's photo. Nobody recognized his picture. That's what they said. Of course this was not a "police friendly" environment. We grabbed one guy who was just coming home. He actually looked like a hard working guy with a real job. He looked at the photo and said, "He doesn't look familiar. But people come and go here all the time. You want the landlord's number? He'll know." The guy paged through his cell phone and gave us the number for Jim the landlord. 267-508-2567.
We walked out onto the stoop, keeping the front door ajar so we could get back in. I kept an eye on the stairway as well as the street where a small pack of dogs ran around that included a Pit. It was the kind of dog that you would have to shoot in the noggin several times if he came at you. "I got him." Rob almost sounded surprised. "He doesn't know the name Ali, but he said he'd come right over. He only lives a couple of blocks away. Seemed pretty decent." I said, "I guess he ain't livin' in Chevy Chase then, huh." "I guess not" Rob said as he put a raid jacket on.
A few minutes later Jim showed up. He pulled up in a plain looking Buick. It wasn't new but it wasn't a ghetto cruiser either. Jim wasn't actually the landlord. He was more like the super. A rich fuck from Silver Spring, not Chevy Chase, owned the building. Jim collected the rent and did maintenance. The first floor apartment with the TV and fan was actually his office. "I keep that shit goin' so people think somebody's in there. I showed Jim the mug shot photo. "Oh, second floor middle" he said quickly. He said almost under his breath, "I knew that dude was trouble".